Unique theatrical event tackles taboo issues facing health professionals

25 October 2017

Grace Under Pressure is a new theatre project that examines the workplace and training cultures that are affecting young health professionals and can put the lives of patients at risk. 

Recent reports have suggested that the rates of clinical depression, suicidal ideation and suicidal behaviours among doctors and nurses are twice as high as the national average.

Grace Under Pressure weaves together the experiences of the health professionals that look after us in a play that is both hilarious and heartbreaking. It is a deeply moving work that is a unique glimpse for the general public into the often-closed world of the health sector. Grace Under Pressure will open public conversation, and encourage cultural change within the medical and nursing professions.

The play is the initiative of the Sydney Arts and Health Collective - a group of multi-school Sydney academics from Nursing, Public Health, Brain and Mind Centre, Medical Education, Performing Arts, Sydney Health Ethics, Seymour Centre and Brain and Mind Centre. 

Associate Professor Louise Nash from University of Sydney’s Medical School and Sydney Arts and Health Collective said that medicine and nursing are often referred to as “caring” professions, yet bullying, harassment and “teaching by humiliation” are a common experience in hospitals, particularly for students and interns.

“Grace Under Pressure has been written for our medical students, nursing students, junior doctors, teachers and leaders, and will start a conversation about often taboo issues including harassment and discrimination.

“This performance work is part of a larger research project examining the culture of healthcare training and exploring positive ways to counter many of the known negative impacts on the health and well-being of trainees.”

Acclaimed verbatim theatre makers David Williams and Paul Dwyer, in collaboration with the Sydney Arts and Health Collective, have developed Grace Under Pressure from interviews with interns, medical and nursing students, as well as senior allied health professionals and representatives from the specialist colleges and peak bodies.

 “Our aim is to promote culture change in the health workspace, which requires a multi-pronged approach,” said Professor Nash.

 “We are on target for this being topical not just in health, but in the community. Ultimately, the project will produce teaching resources that will be incorporated into healthcare training curricula.

“The play will open a critical space for conversation about often-taboo issues, and will be an important public intervention into medical culture, as well as a compelling, confronting, hopeful and deeply moving work of theatre.”

Event details:

WHAT: Grace Under Pressure

DATES: 25th to 28th October

TIMES: Wednesday 8pm, Thursday 8pm. Friday 4pm and 8pm, Saturday 2pm and 8pm

BOOKINGS: or (02) 9351 7940

TICKETS: Adults $38 / Concession $30

Tickets are available online from the Seymour Centre. Healthcare students can receive attractive discounts. Please contact Claire Hooker for more information.

Grace under Pressure is presented by the Seymour Centre and the Big Anxiety Festival with the Sydney Arts and Health Collective.

The project is supported by funding from the Big Anxiety Festival, an initiative of the UNSW National Institute for Experimental Arts, a University of Sydney Education Innovation grant and seed funding from the Sydney School of Public Health.

The Sydney Arts and Health Collective is and interdisciplinary team comprised of:

Dr Claire Hooker, SPH, VELiM

Dr Paul Macneill, SPH, VELiM

Dr Kimberley Ivory, SPH

Dr Paul Dwyer, Department of Performance Studies

Dr Karen Scott, Sydney Medical School

Dr Louise Nash, Brain Mind Centre

Dr Jo River, Sydney Nursing School

Dr David Williams, Seymour Centre

The group has been working on creative approaches to professionalism in healthcare education since 2015. This year we are also joined by MD project student, Emily Dunn, supervised by Claire Hooker and PhD candidate, James Dalton, supervised by Paul Dwyer. There will be opportunities in 2017 for interested people to attend seminars with artists in residence and workshops related to the performance.

"Sydney Arts and Health Collective" is a group of Sydney University academics from diverse backgrounds from Performance Studies, Nursing, Seymour Centre, Medical Education, Sydney Health Ethics and Brain and Mind Centre.  They have been working together over the last 2 years developing workshops to counter workplace mistreatment such as bullying and harassment, and to promote positive culture change in the health workspace. The play, Grace Under Pressure, is their most exciting venture so far, and opens a space to reflect on how little has changed over the last 30 years with retard to these problems. To focus on promoting junior health care worker resiliance to reduce distress in staff denies the workplace the opportunity for structural change.  Healthy workplaces are required for health doctors.  The play highlights this.

Elliott Richardson

Assistant Media Advisor (Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy)

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